Is Shimon Peres Planning to Undermine Netanyahu?
For some people, seven decades in political life would be considered a lifetime of service. At the age of 91, most people would be happy to leave the public eye and retire to a quiet life.
Not, apparently, Shimon Peres.
As Israel’s nonagenarian president enters his last month in office, Peres has begun showing signs that the end of his career as an elected official will not necessarily mean his exit from the political stage.
The Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Aharonoth reported on Yom HaAtzma’ut that Peres had violated his mandate as Israeli president by “negotiating” an updated version of the Oslo Accords with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in 2011. Today, the paper reported that the prime minister was furious at Peres’ comments, which appeared to be an opening salvo in a post-presidency in which Peres uses his international status as a senior Israeli spokesman to pressure Netanyahu to compromise vital interests in the name of appeasing the international community.
In Israel, the president has no authority to negotiate treaties, but Peres’ international recognition as a senior Israeli spokesman could put pressure on the prime minister
On Wednesday, Peres met with visiting US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, a meeting that ended with an announcement that Peres would travel to the United States next month to meet President Barack Obama at the White House.
During a joint press conference, Peres departed again from his largely ceremonial role to argue that “There’s no alternative to the two-state solution. Israel is reaching out for peace with all of its neighbors, primarily with the Palestinians.” Peres did not mention any of the many signs that the Palestinians do not appear ready to make peace with Israel, but Palestinian Authority leader Abu Mazen capitalised immediately on Peres’ attack on Netanyahu.
“After the first four meetings, a fifth meeting was planned in Amman,” the Palestinian leader said, “but Shimon Peres made his excuses and told me: ‘I’m sorry but the government doesn’t accept what we have negotiated and there’s nothing more I can do’.”
It should be noted that while Peres and Netanyahu have treated one-another cordially during their joint tenure as president and prime minister, respectively, there is also long-standing political blood between the two. Netanyahu was a fierce critic of Peres’ Oslo process during the 1990s, and narrowly defeated the Labor Party stalwart in the 1996 election following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.